Mentorship can be a life-changing experience for a young hairstylist and nobody knows this better than Drew Faber. The Chicago-based stylist has been given the unique opportunity to represent Wella as a mentee at this year’s Beauty Changes Lives Experience—an annual event that raises money to help empower the next generation of beauty pros.
As a mentee, Faber has not only been able to work closely alongside Wella’s incredible team of artists, but also receive personal guidance from Wella Design Team Artist, Stevie Smith, who serves as his mentor. And, while he has been fortunate enough to already apprentice under Smith at her salon, Smith & Davis Salon, Faber has now been able to build upon his learnings which we will all see the culmination of when his work hits the runway at BCL Experience this weekend.
Ahead of the event, The Tease spoke to Faber to discuss how he landed his mentorship with Wella, the inspiration for his forthcoming BCL Experience runway looks, his future plans, and so much more!
The Tease: First and foremost, how does it feel to be representing the Wella Team as a mentee at this year’s Beauty Changes Lives Experience?
Drew Faber: Validating! This time last year, I was finishing up my last handful of hours of cosmetology school back in Michigan, still completely unsure of my path moving forward. Now, I’m one of a small team of people representing this massive international brand. It’s a huge honor.
How did this opportunity come about with the Wella Team? Walk us through the process of being selected as a mentee.
Faber: Is it weird to say it sort of fell in my lap? I know that there’s usually a competitive element to the mentee selection process, and that this year was done a little bit differently; the opportunity was presented to me by my mentor, Stevie Smith, simply because I was already her mentee. That isn’t to say I haven’t worked hard! The last two years have been a whirlwind: in that span of time I paid my own way through cosmetology school, passed my licensing exams, moved states, began my apprenticeship with Stevie, and then was pulled into this whole BCL experience. That’s how I got here, and the fact that all of my hard work in the past couple of years is karmically coming back to me in the form of open doors just tells me that I’m doing something right.
How has it been having Wella Artist acting as your mentor throughout your mentorship? Did you follow her work? What’s the biggest piece of advice that she’s shared with you thus far?
Faber: It’s been fantastic! We make a good team, and over time we’ve developed a great understanding of how one another’s brain works. I’ve been her apprentice since June of 2021 when I was fresh out of cosmetology school, and I actually didn’t follow her work until I was shopping around for apprenticeship opportunities. I was moving to Chicago from Michigan at the time and I literally went on Google Maps and searched for salons near where I was going to be moving. Stevie’s salon, Smith & Davis, popped up in the results, I loved what I saw, and the rest is history!
The most impactful thing she’s taught me to date is, to put it simply: don’t over-complicate everything. I tend to be very cerebral and self-critical, and she’s been teaching me to trust my knowledge and my instinct to simply create instead of agonizing over details. It applies to hairdressing, friendships, how I view myself in relation to the world—everything.
As part of BCL Experience, the Wella Team will be creating looks to be showcased during the runway presentation. With this year’s runway show focused on “celebrating the journey of a professional’s career”, can you share with us a little bit about the inspiration for the looks you are working on?
Faber: Absolutely! I was happy to play a big role in the conceptualization phase of this process, from mood board to runway. We were all inspired by this idea of human metamorphosis—this image of people shedding the restraints that are imposed by a very stereotype-drived society and expressing themselves in a free and uninhibited way. We’re designing each model’s look to be representative of that idea in a different way; whether it be about age, profession, gender, hair texture, or whatever—there is no single “correct” way to look in order to be beautiful.
How do you feel this experience working with the Wella Team has helped you grow as a hairstylist?
Faber: I think it has taught me a lot about the spirit of collaboration. There’s a certain mystical power that comes from a group of artists coming together and throwing all of their passion and knowledge and various skill sets at a challenge, and then seeing what can be created out of all of it. I feel like I’m really learning how to find creative inspiration in the most random things — one thing I put on my mood board for this event was a vintage 1950’s comic panel of a traditional housewife who’s cooking her husband a meal and pondering aloud, “Now, where did I put the arsenic?” and that kind of dangerous, subversive vibe is going to be represented in one of the looks on stage!”
What are you looking forward to the most with attending BCL Experience this year?
Faber: I think I’m most excited to see all of our team’s haphazard videochat brainstorming all form together in a finished product. There’s a huge level of satisfaction in saying, “Yeah, we did that. We made that happen.”
You’re currently a color apprentice at Smith and Davis Salon. What are your future plans for when your apprenticeship is complete?
Faber: I hope to stay put! If all continues to go well, I will become a stylist at Smith & Davis and begin to really build my clientele. Chicago is such a sprawling, diverse city and I hope to specifically bring in and cater to the queer community. I’m very passionate about providing services to those who may not feel safe or validated in every space they enter. Plus, my queer silbings love to use their hair to express themselves in new, bright, and innovative ways and I can’t wiat to see what they ask me to create for them!
Where will we see you in 5 years time?
Faber: Okay, I’m manifesting it now: in 2027, I will be working behind the chair as a colorist full-time, mastering advanced techniques as well as innovating new ones, styling wigs for high-profile drag artists to be seen internationally on TV, and raising a corgi puppy who has social media accounts with more followers than min. Check back in five years!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
To see more of Faber’s work, be sure to follow @drew.mitchell.hair on Instagram. And, if you’d like to attend BCL Experience and see his runway looks in person, be sure to click here to purchase a ticket.